Students at Taunton School celebrating top A-level grades have told how the Covid-19 pandemic meant they could immerse themselves in their studies.
The independent school, in the Somerset town, is more than 150 years old and has around 1,000 pupils from nursery age to sixth form.
Martha Mileham, 18, from Taunton, was one of dozens of students collecting results at the site on Tuesday morning.
She achieved A grades in chemistry, biology and business studies, as well as a six in an International Baccalaureate Spanish course.
Martha is now heading to the University of Plymouth to study dentistry.
“I think the pandemic benefited me in my academia because it just allowed me to not have many distractions, because that was all you could do,” she said.
“It definitely made it weird applying for university though, it was strange having to do all my interviews on Zoom.
“One thing that worried me was that I knew a lot of people deferred from last year so it might make it a bit more competitive to get in.”
Martha – who plays netball, hockey and tennis – said she was hoping for a “normal experience” when she reaches Plymouth in September.
During the university application process, she underwent eight interviews including one that required her to learn how to do origami.
“I had a week to work out how to make it on the instructions and perform on the day,” Martha said.
“I suppose they had to see my manual dexterity skills, which they couldn’t do in person.”
Ollie Halliday, 18, from Taunton, achieved A* grades in history, economics and psychology.
He is working as a legal assistant at a law firm and plans to apply to Oxford University to study history next year.
“I think the pandemic has almost played to my strength,” Ollie said.
“I’m quite an independent learner so I didn’t have issues with motivation.
“It wasn’t easy not seeing my friends though so it was swings and roundabouts.”
Ollie said he would usually go out with friends a couple of times each week but was unable to during the pandemic.
“We have had more free time but we had nothing else to do so were able to do more work,” he added.
Max Fletcher, 18, from Taunton, achieved three distinction stars in his Level 3 BTEC in Sports Science.
He is now heading to Durham University to study sports science.
“The practical parts of the course were challenging because during the lockdowns it was all remote,” Max said.
“The school did really well at the remote learning though. Almost every day there were fitness sessions you could do – yoga, dance, for example, and the sport staff set up drills for us to do at home.”
Max added that he considered deferring his university place for a year but was “really happy” to be going this September instead.